Any day is good at Tampa’s Sunday’s (Fine Dining)

Sunday’s seafood cioppino offers a delightful offering of prawns, scallops and calamari.

You never know who will be in your eatery in Ybor City.  Sunday’s Fine Dining owner is still clucking about the rooster that took up residence in his office for a few days. His management style wasn’t so bad but his keyboard skills were all hunt and peck.

Dave Sunday, armed with a skill set culled from the army, the Long Island fishing community and a degree from culinary school in New York (NYIT), has gotten notice here.  Once a chef in South Hampton, N.Y. during summers, he chose to winter here and cook at the Straz Center for the Arts. Even that wasn’t his idea of paradise.

“I got tired of packing up and moving,’’ he says.

Last October, the chef moved here and opened his restaurant three months later. His success all started with meat loaf.

“Meat loaf saved our restaurant,’’ says Dave. He sells tons of it. So much so that when Frankie Valli performed in the Tampa Bay area, the Jersey Boys star couldn’t take his eyes off it. He requested more orders of meat loaf to be delivered across the Bay when he performed at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

While the individual components, beef, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs and sautéed onions, may be typical, the end result is not. Dave cooks his slow, slices it to order, then grills it up with a sweet, mahogany-glazed barbecue sauce that makes a lovely crust. Topped with fried onions, and resting on mashed potatoes with vegetables, it’s a real find.

An appetizing starter: goat-cheese stuffed chicken legs wrapped with Applewood bacon.

Blending tradition with a seasonable approach, the soft-shell crab, lightly fried in a light tempura batter, is served with  Thai-style fried rice. A made-from-scratch Cioppino, brimming with Diver scallops, prawns, calamari and rimmed with mussels, makes good transition from soup to entree. Its saffron-scented tomato broth had a few green beans to break up the color monotony. It’s hard to stop eating it. Dave also presses duck with a brick to force the fat out and results in a tasty pairing of duck, fried rice, bean sprout slaw and hibachi sauce.

For starters, consider the Applewood bacon-wrapped, deboned chicken legs, stuffed with herbs and goat cheese. Or, long leaves of grilled romaine with Romano curls that elevates a typical Caesar salad.

General manager Gina Sgambato, who Dave calls “the love of his life,’’ makes Sunday’s Key lime tart; crème brûlée and bread pudding. A pastry chef from Pittsburg will be changing up Sunday’s sweets soon.

The chef’s challenges? The hours are hard as Sunday’s is open for brunch, lunch and dinner. And, although he believes he has some good people, he misses the talent pool he worked with up north.

The building, built in the 1920s, has housed Sushi on 7th, Sushi X, Raw Lounge and Cinco de Mayo, but I think this place will stay. With a new club, Barbarella, gearing up across the street, Dave plans to stay open longer hours.

Just don’t let that rooster wake him up too early.

Sunday’s Fine Dining
1919 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa, FL
(813) 248-4000
Hours: Sunday:  9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Tue. – Wed,  10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Thurs: – Sat. 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Way to pay: AE, MC, V, Discover
Cocktails, beer and wine served
www.Sundaysfinedining.com

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Among the best:  Tampa’s Pane Rustica and Pelagia Trattoria are two of my favorite spots. They also made this year’s list of Golden Spoon winners:  Check out Chris Sherman’s picks.

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And then there were two: New York food guru Geoffrey Zakarian (The National  and The Lambs Club)  competes against  San Francisco’s chef  Elizabeth Falkner (Citizen Cake and Orson)  in the last of  The Next Iron Chef challenge  Sunday at 9 p.m.  Chefs Beau McMillian, Robert Irvine, Marcus Samuelsson and Anne Burrell were eliminated.  I say Geoffrey will win it by a whisker. More about Iron Chef .

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2 comments to Any day is good at Tampa’s Sunday’s (Fine Dining)

  • Julie Smith

    Mary, Thanks for working on your birthday to bring us yet another great review.

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